THE LONE RANGER

Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp must be greatly annoyed that notable US Box Office flop The Lone Ranger didn’t open overseas day and date, as has been the trend with tentpoles over the past decade or so.  Now they’ve been forced into the unenviable position of promoting a film that is already leaden with bad press (and bad reviews).  To summarize, both Hammer and Depp blame the movie’s Stateside failure on critics who pre-judged due to the troubled production news that was, quite frankly, everywhere.  Now, briefly, let’s pause for a series of “on the one hand”: Read the rest of this entry »

Iron Man 3

May 3, 2013

IRON MAN 3

The Marvel Machine rampages on in Iron Man 3, which is already taking in incredible amounts of money because, I think, Marvel is exceptionally good at product management.  It says something about the skill of digital effects companies that you can make a solid action blockbuster product without the specific skill-set of an “action director”, and thus we have reached the point where the talent is brought in for their ability to keep a certain level of quality, not take risks and, most importantly, keep the writing snappy.  Though some of the films have had minor aesthetic differences, they all more or less look the same:  generally bright, inoffensive, with a dash of pop art stylization without going full-blown Ang Lee.  The last two entries, especially, have had one major authorial difference and that’s in the writing.  The Avengers largely kept to Joss Whedon’s not inconsiderable talent for wit, and now Iron Man 3 flows right into Shane Black’s wheelhouse.  The fact that it’s distinctive is down almost solely to the script, and if it doesn’t set it necessarily to a higher standard than other Marvel fare, it’s at least different.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Easy is nice.  The world is difficult and indifferent, and as such there’s nothing wrong with opting for something easy when you can.  I get that.  I’m not against that.  But there’s “easy” and then there’s “easy”.  The Twilight Saga film franchise has, it turns out, been easy in a way that’s so unbelievably lazy and dull that I can’t imagine how a thinking human being can find it entertaining.  People talk a lot about liking films they can just “turn their brains off” and watch, but surely there are some basic elements of storytelling that require at least some semblance of a conflict to make it work, even if it is perfunctory or dumb or obvious.  I finally watched the final part of the series, Breaking Dawn Part 2, and I have come to the conclusion that nothing at all of interest happened in the 9 or so hours of time I spent watching them over the years.  Of the many, many problems that have plagued this $3 billion franchise, the worst is quite possibly that it plays like a young child’s imagining of a narrative for his toys.  My incredible, adorable nephew was once playing with some toy cars and figurines, and was explaining to me, “this truck has to get over here so he can see the cows!”  “That’s great”, I said, “but where’s the conflict? The truck just has to get over there to see the cows, and that’s it.”  He was all of five years old at the time, so what did I expect?  I should add I said it in a playful way and I’m sure he didn’t pick up on my criticism, so I didn’t rudely offend a child.  Still, there’s nothing to what he was trying to achieve, and that, in a nutshell, is what The Twilight Saga has turned out to be.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Amazing Spider-Man

August 17, 2012

There have been too many cynical studio cash-ins to count.  If they see a proven franchise sitting in front of them, executives will do whatever they can to milk it for all its worth.  The Amazing Spider-Man is one such property, although instead of milking it for every last cent, the motivation here was simple: keep the rights.  Due to a deal with Disney and Marvel, Sony had to produce a film featuring the Spider-man character before a certain amount of time for them to retain the rights, and here it is.  As a result, there’s a somewhat antiseptic quality to the film.  However, it feels less like a blatant cash-in a la Alien vs Predator than it does a protective measure.  The studio handprints are all over it, but they’re more concerned with protecting the property (and not messing up a new version of a popular franchise) then they do with duping the public into a hastily thrown-together profit squeeze. Read the rest of this entry »

Prometheus

June 20, 2012

All the anticipation, all clever viral marketing, and that stunningly awesome trailer have all led to this:  2012’s “yeah, but” movie.  Prometheus is one of those movies designed to flood the internet with endless debates amongst nerds and/or film critics – it’s a not-quite-prequel to one of the greatest science fiction and horror films of all time, co-written by Lost’s Damon Lindelof, and directed by the ever dubious Ridley Scott, the director of two beloved masterpieces early in his career and a whole slew of middling-to-fascinating-to-downright-awful films ever since.  Big budget, an R rating, gloopy sci-fi horror and spaceships and a great cast and you have to wonder, is it any good?  Well, yeah, but… Read the rest of this entry »

The Avengers

May 5, 2012

Despite being a ready-made blockbuster success, The Avengers had a pretty significant hurdle to clear if it wanted to be any good – a notion that is hardly necessary when the quality of a film like this is rarely important when it comes to being a “success”.  Ensemble films are tricky enough, but when four of the central characters have each had movies of their own, attempting to corral them all into something sensible without giving short-shrift to anyone is doubly (or, quadruply?) so.  This is all to say that anyone who says that writer/director Joss Whedon, who was given the task of putting this all together, merely has to “not screw it up,” they’re doing an extreme disservice to the sheer difficulty of the task at hand.  A surfeit of good, existing elements is probably harder to make into something even basically functional as a movie than starting from the ground up.  It’s a small wonder, then, that The Avengers is not only good, it is better than it probably needs to be and is certainly the best of this slate of Marvel films.

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The Hunger Games

March 29, 2012

The difficulty in approaching any film, especially one based on a popular book, is that of knowing and understanding history and where it might fit in.  It’s almost impossible to watch John Carter and not think of all the similar elements it shares with a host of popular movies from the 20th century, and yet it was published far before those works and is clearly an influence on a number of them.  It is probably best to disregard the notion of ‘authenticity’ as being crucial to enjoyment when possible – though that gets tricky when you think of the number of films and TV shows that function almost entirely on the audience’s preconceived notions of a particular genre (think of everything Joss Whedon has done).  In a perfect world, pure originality shouldn’t matter.  After all, it’s the specific approach to an idea that pays dividends, or else you’re left with nothing but an idea.  In that spirit of generous critiquing, I can’t blame Suzanne Collins for writing a hugely popular book and then having it adapted into a successful film even though Battle Royale has existed for over a decade now.  That’s not to say it doesn’t matter, though. Read the rest of this entry »

The most insipid of romances continues plodding along towards whatever conclusion Stephanie Meyer has cooked up in the first part of the finale to the outrageously titled Twilight Saga.  This segment, Breaking Dawn, picks up where Eclipse left off with Edward Cullen (Robert Pattison) and Bella Swann (Kristen Stewart) getting ready for the big wedding.  Then they have the big wedding, and it is tedious as hell.  Then they have a honeymoon, where beds are broken and they run around and hilariously play chess – as though they ever stopped making moon eyes at each other long enough to work that out.  This might be the only time we’ve really spent anytime with them as a couple, and it comes in the form of a brisk montage so our understanding of how their relationship functions and what they actually see in each other is never advanced one iota.  Not that it’s a big deal or anything.  I gave up on that aspect of the story a long time ago and now simply accept that they Are.   Read the rest of this entry »

There was an exceptional episode of South Park this year where Stan turned ten years old and suddenly everything he loved previously started to literally look and sound like shit.  He had suddenly hit an age where cynicism had kicked in, and things that formerly looked awesome to him no longer looked appealing in the slightest.  There is a fantastic scene when he attends a film, and in the various trailers he sees, including one for Jack and Jill, every character turns into fecal matter and the narrator sporadically tells the audience, “fuck you!”  I felt that way for a while this year, as the summer movie event season was particularly poor in that it produced only 3 or 4 films I even partially enjoyed.  I always prided myself on seeing the joys of mainstream Hollywood, even when it was mostly producing rubbish, but this year I felt like I had cracked.  As the end of the year approached, however, I realized that actually it had been pretty brilliant for film.  This list started as a more traditional “top 20”, but it soon ballooned into 25 before finally hitting the incredibly self-indulgent Top 30 you see before you.

If you want to read the general rules of this list, please refer to the introduction to last year’s.  The differences this year is that I’ve made a conscious decision to cut myself off on December 31st, so every film considered was seen by me for the first time in 2011.  I’ve still retained the rule that it had to be theatrically released (festivals do not count) during the calendar year.  As I don’t live in Los Angeles or New York, nor am I rich beyond my wildest dreams and can afford to see everything, this leaves me with a number of notable omissions due to not having seen them.  The heavy hitters include Mysteries of Lisbon, We Need to Talk about Kevin, Le Havre, and Shame.  I was also ill for quite a bit of the year, and though I’ve tried my hardest to see as much as I can, there was always going to be a limit.  Anyways, here they are, my top 30 films of 2011.

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The question that continued to weigh on my mind as I viewed Joe Johnstone’s Captain America: The First Avenger, the latest in the series of extraordinarily expensive supplemental materials for 2012’s Avengers spectacular, was this:  are comic book movies boring or am I bored of comic book movies?  I’m not entirely sure, and although I realize the premise isn’t entirely true (I am excited to see Nolan’s next entry in his Dark Knight series), I couldn’t even feign enthusiasm for any of the superhero tentpoles that have graced the screens this summer.  As a matter of fact, I only saw this one and X-Men: First Class, so maybe I’m just being harsh.  I’m sure I’ll rent Thor just to get myself up to speed, but at this point the Marvel Universe (or really, the Avengers Universe) entries are all too mediocre to get excited about.  They feel more like filling in the prerequisites for a course I don’t particularly want to take.  I recognize that Captain America isn’t all that bad, but it’s not all that good either. Read the rest of this entry »